France to open restaurants and beaches

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe says many freedoms will be restored on June 2.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe says many freedoms will be restored on June 2.

France will allow restaurants, bars and cafes to reopen from June 2, though with more restrictions in Paris than elsewhere, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe says as he announced the next phase in easing the country's coronavirus lockdown.

The government is also lifting a country-wide 100 km travel restriction and will reopen beaches and parks from next week.

Philippe said he was in favour of removing border restrictions within Europe's Schengen area without quarantine rules from June 15.

"Freedom will become the rule, bans the exception," Philippe said in a televised address.

The spread of the virus is slowing quicker than hoped for and Paris is no longer deemed a "red zone" coronavirus hot-spot, the prime minister said. But danger still lurked and there was no room for complacency, he said.

The greater Paris region is now an "orange" zone, meaning it not as virus-free as almost all other regions designated "green", and the easing of restrictions will be more cautious, Philippe said.

More than 28,500 people have died of COVID-19 in France. On Wednesday the death toll rose by less than 100 for the seventh day running.

The number of confirmed coronavirus infections in France jumped by 3325 to 149,071 on Thursday although the increase was not due to a rise in daily infections but was a result of the inclusion of data from a new tracking system, the health ministry said in a statement.

Across the country, restaurants, cafes and bars will have to ensure a minimum one-metre gap between tables and all staff must wear face masks.

In "orange" zones like the greater Paris region they will only be permitted to open outdoor seating areas.

A ban on gatherings in public places of more than 10 people remains in place for now, and major sporting events will also be suspended until at least June 21, Philippe added.

Cinemas will be allowed to open from June 22 unless the spread of the virus quickens once again.

Australian Associated Press